Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Making Time

Month 7 Day 17
0808 Hours

Jane had almost reached her chair when she heard MacDowell ask, “What cross-training?”

Nobody has even— First Drake and now Smitty can’t remember how things are done. She faced communications, where Chun was performing pre-shift checks. “Lt MacDowell, a moment before you leave?”

“Yes, captain.”

Jane sat and opened the screen on her chair arm, turned to today’s ‘to-do’ list. The first item was ‘begin plans for holiday party’. Blast, another party? I’m pretty much partied out.

“You wanted to see me, captain?”

Jane turned to face the redhead. “Yes. May I ask what Mr Smythe discussed with you?”

“He wants me to translate a Yukoskian technical manual. I didn’t understand why Abdulla suggested I do it, until he said it was in the Yukosk alphabet.”

“You have the most experience with that language.”

“I didn’t want to take the opportunity away from anyone else.”

She must have taken it to heart when the Academy said communication officers should learn new languages. Most of them use the translators in the field. “Did he tell you to do it, or ask you?”

MacDowell looked up from the chip in her hand, her eyes wide. “Is there a difference?”

“If he told you, it’s an assignment. If he asked, it’s a favor.”

The redhead frowned. “I don’t remember his exact words. To me, it’s a project.” She lowered her voice; “Another project.”

“Like the 2 papers you’ve already written?”

“Yes, but these I’m doing alone. Mostly.” The corner of her mouth twitched. “I won’t have any partners’ schedules to keep in mind.”

Bugalu’s head had started to turn, but turned forward again. “How many projects does she have?” Capac asked the helmsman.

“I didn’t know she had any,” Bugalu returned.

Like I told Smitty, she’s intelligent. Intelligent people can get engrossed with ‘projects’. “Care to tell me what kind of paper you’re working on?”

“A book,” MacDowell returned. “Two books. First, an English/Yukosk dictionary. Kolla’s working on it, too, but we’re working separately right now, and compare our work later. And a primer on Yukoskian grammar, syntax, and so on. For use with their alphabet, because otherwise, people could just use a translator.” She considered the chip in her hand. “It’ll be difficult to balance everything with 2 hours a day translating.”

This time, Bugalu turned and glared at the redhead. The fact that Jane saw the glare as well didn’t stop him. Looks like big brother is feeling bossy. “I need some coffee,” Jane announced, and stood. “Come with me, MacDowell.”

“Y... Yes, captain.”

In her office, Jane opened her mailbox as she gestured the girl to a seat. The time stamps for the 9 messages since midnight showed that each was forwarded to her mailbox within seconds of reaching the communications console. “MacDowell, refresh my memory. Wasn’t there a time when you were allowed to study for your probation while on duty?”

“Um, yes, captain. Abdulla gave me permission to-“

“Abdulla? Not Mr Smythe?”

“I...” The girl blushed. “I couldn’t ask him. I was sure he... didn’t want me to pass.”

“Abdulla told me that you knew your job.”

“She told me that, too.”

“They why would she allow you to study on duty?”

“I obviously didn’t know it, because I couldn’t answer Smit’s questions.”

That had nothing to do with what she knew. “Did she ever warn you not to let your studies interfere with your duties?”

“Yes, when she first told me I could study. So I made sure of it. I didn’t want her to change her mind.”

“Good.” That takes self-discipline. “I suspect Bugalu is worried you will get carried away with your projects.” The redhead gave a sad nod of agreement. Times like this I wish I knew more about communications. Or whatever field the subordinate is in. Sink or swim, Jane. “Did you keep copies of the papers you’ve already written? I mean, copies in Yukoskian?”

“Yes. We were already thinking of dictionaries, and felt the papers could help. Feed the 2 versions through decoding and translating programs, see which words get paired. Then double-check with each other, to eliminate mistakes.”

Jane gave the girl a grin of appreciation of that plan. “Why not start your translation of the technual the same way? I doubt the programs will figure out all the words, but you might get a head start on it.”

The girl looked thoughtful. “That might work. I mean, it should work. Some words I’ll have to figure out, the grammar could be compared to what Kolla wrote... I could make progress on all 3 projects at the same time!”

“Sounds good,” Jane stated. “How do you like your job on the graveyard shift?”

The young woman’s face sobered immediately. “I like the job. There’s a couple people on the shift I don’t care for.”

“Only a couple? Then you’re lucky. I will allow you to work on these projects - all 3 of them - while you are on duty, as long as doing so does not interfere with your duties.”

MacDowell looked stunned, and the sharp breath she eventually took confirmed it. She smiled. “Thank you, captain!”

Jane held up 1 hand. “Calm down. There are other conditions to this.” The Gaelunder leaned back in her chair and gave a nod, a hint of caution in her eyes. “You can’t fill up the communications console with your projects.”

“I’m running the programs on my computer in my quarters. I’ll work remotely from my station.”

“Okay, we’ll try that. Next, I like members of my crew to interact.”


“Have friendships. Do activities together. Generally, find time to relax. I feel a crew that’s friendly works better together.”

“Do you mean... dates?”

She looks frightened of the idea. “Not necessarily. I’ve given you time on duty to work on your projects, so I hope those projects will not also eat up your off-duty time. If you must use off-duty time, I do not expect it to exceed 2 hours a day. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you have problems, come see me. I’m sure we can resolve any new dilemmas.”

“Thank you, captain.”

“Now go. Have some fun.”

The redhead stood, but hesitated. “Fun? Is that an order?”

What now? She doesn’t understand what ‘fun’ is? “What were you planning to do when you got off duty today?”

“Check on my computer, see what progress it’s made. And now, add this technual to the mix. Shouldn’t take more than half an hour. And then sleep.”

Of course! She sleeps while Bugalu is on duty. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. When I reach the end of my shift, I relax and then go to bed. But not everybody does. Your plans are fine. Sleep tight.”

“Thank you, captain. I appreciate this opportunity.”

Jane gave her a friendly smile. “I’m always happy when a member of my crew gets a paper printed in their field’s journal. Or submits a paper. It lends credence to the idea that we are not just a military force.”

MacDowell squirmed. “I don’t know that anything I write will ever-“

“Lieutenant, right now, you are the leading authority on the Yukoskian language. I’m sure your dictionary and language primer will be quite useful. Don’t ever doubt yourself.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, captain.” MacDowell turned for the nearest door and left.

“Blossom, could you bring me a cup of coffee?” Jane asked.

“Of course.”

“And have you got any ideas for a theme for this upcoming party?”